Perspectives and analyses from the editor:
January 14, 2013
An interesting analysis posted by Caucasus Elections Watch: on an increasingly active civil society in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has kept historically a tight grip on the extent to which civic organizations can express dissenting viewpoints. This latest call for greater accountability from decision making is worth watching, both for Azerbaijan and the greater Caucasus region.
Azerbaijani Political activism searches for ways of expression
August 15, 2012
English Translation – “when I found out that my grandson voted for party “X…” I changed my will and left my house to my cat”
Ukraine Elections Billboard
March 14, 2012
You may have noticed a few days of inactivity on Nomadic Mindburst. I have been traveling to Asia and without an internet connection. I am finally connected again though, unfortunately, the site will have to lay dormant for one more day…
I am writing from the airport in Shanghai, China, on my way to Cambodia for a conference. I had a one night layover here, my first time in the city. As I got into a cab yesterday at Pu Dong International Airport and sped (literally!) towards the city, it was easy to see China’s incredible economic growth. The skyline is filled with high-rise apartment buildings and new multistory houses stretching to the horizon, and the port is full with cargo ships queuing to unload their shipments of goods from around the world. Once in the city, walking along the famous “Bund” (the main waterfront avenue and former British settlement in Shanghai), the modern cityscape of skyscrapers is comparable to no other. On the surface, the city is booming.
There is, however, another darker side to China’s unparalleled economic success; free access to information is highly controlled. While I knew this to be true from almost daily stories in the media, I had yet to experience the reality of Chinese censors for myself. Sate run censors block access to a host of internet sites deemed a threat to national security and stability, among them Google, Facebook, and Twitter. China operates its own versions of the latter two (QQ.com and Weibo), and only allows access to Google Hong Kong, all of which are closely monitored by the State. Adding to the list, another site I soon found to be blocked is the hosting site for Nomadic Mindburst, WordPress.
For me wanting to post my blog amounts to a mere frustration, for I know that later this evening from my hotel in Phnom Penh (where I am now), I will have uncensored access to the internet. At a macro level, however, it amounts to a crisis. In China, the largest population in the world lacks almost any means to share unfiltered news with the outside world, while they receive through Chinese media a carefully choreographed version of what is actually happening around them. From the news that does reach the international media (including recent cases of self-immolation of monks in Tibet and village-wide protests in Wukan, in southern Guangdong Province), it is clear that the citizens are struggling to make their voices heard, and advocating for policies that respond to their needs and demands. I am determined to turn my frustration into action. If any readers have experience blogging from China (as I know there are ways around the firewalls), I want to hear your stories, struggles, viewpoints, and advice.
March 4, 2012
On-the-ground perspectives to inform US foreign policy and national policies abroad
Living and working in Washington, DC, it’s hard to escape the buzz and debate about international affairs and policy. From the popular protests in the Middle East and Russia to inter-religious conflict in Nigeria or famine in Africa, countless headlines from around the world make their way into our daily conversations. Most stories, however, tend to perpetuate gross generalizations and political bias, and they often lack the comprehensive information needed for readers to form accurate and appropriate understandings of the events, and their broader implications.
As a result, it’s easy to lose sight of the local nuances and complex circumstances that are shaping the course of these events. By providing an online platform for critical local voices, unfiltered by mass media, we hope to help foster more effective policies that respond to the real situations and needs on the ground.
Late last year, I met with a Nigerian activist and civil society leader from an area experiencing a recent spate of religiously motivated violence and killings. A group called Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks, including in churches and schools. The activist was concerned that Western media is portraying an inaccurate picture of the realities in Northern Nigeria. Boko Haram, she said, is much more fragmented and decentralized than they are made out to be; while their acts are atrocious, violence had yet to overcome the country and people continue to go about their lives. The media, she said, risks oversimplifying what is in reality a complex and fluid situation.
In a meeting that same afternoon in downtown DC, a group of international affairs professionals expressed concern that Nigeria may be on the verge of a wider civil conflict fueled by international Islamic terrorism – clearly a different view from what I had just heard from the Nigerian activist. This experience only served to reaffirm my belief that policymakers need to hear directly from local civil society leaders. While this is not a silver bullet solution to making more effective policy decisions, it is a much-needed component to affect positive change in the policymaking process.
This website brings together contributors from around the world who are thinking critically about key issues in their communities and countries. They offer on-the-ground perspectives from people who have seen, lived, and experienced the events happening around them. They offer the insight and nuance needed to help shape and inform today’s policies.